Friday, September 26, 2014

On Sleep Training (just kidding)

Who else is sick of reading judgy parenting articles, and then the articles and social media posts judging the judgy parenting articles?  I can hardly stand it anymore, so I have to go on an ironically judgy rant.  I belong to a couple of those FB mom-groups which, for the most part, are a great platform for exchanging information and offering encouragement.  But in the past 48 hours, I've seen 4-5 incendiary posts on one of these platforms about sleep training, followed by some commentary that is equally as self-aggrandizing and divisive.  Sure, I suppose I could stop reading it, but gawking at mommy wars is something like driving by a car know you might see something that will upset you, but you just can't help yourself.

The current tagline among moms is judge lest you be judged.  But these types of posts and the commentary that follows show that that's not really what's happening.  Which begs the question for me... is it really possible to NEVER judge the parenting of another mom?  Maybe we are setting some unrealistic expectations and could look at it another way.  After all, don't we all have a few issues that we feel really strongly about?  Presumably, when we make choices related to those issues, it's after evaluating the options and ultimately determining what we think is "best."  I think it's natural that when we see someone else making a different choice about the same thing that we - dare I say it - make a judgment.

If you're not sure if you do it, don't worry, you do.  Whether it's sleep training or nursing or vaccines or discipline or private school or epidural or processed food or iPads or extracurriculars or TV or working, there is SOMETHING you care enough about that makes you react, sometimes not in a positive way.  Sometimes we admire another's choice, if it's something we wish we could have done.  But other times, maybe most of the time, what is perceived as "judgment" is really just a guttural reaction to something that helps affirm our own sense of what is or isn't right for us.  Feeling affirmed and validated isn't a bad thing in it of itself.  We all need it, from time to time.  In your first few years of being a parent, everything is new and you are often unsure that you're doing the right things.  But in the rare moments when you feel confident that you are making good decisions for your family, it's ok (I think) to bask in it a little, even if what made you realize that is seeing someone else do it differently.

However, putting other people's choices down and taking offense in a debate is an entirely different story. Internet commentary has put all mother-in-laws since the dawn of time to shame.  I have never thought, let alone said, that someone was a bad parent for doing X, but have I noted (to myself) that X is not something that would be right for me?  Sure.  Have I given myself a proverbial pat on the back when I hear of some problem we have worked hard (and successfully) to prevent?  Sure.  Do I feel miffed if someone tells me they'd do something differently than I do?  Sometimes.  I think making these judgments from time to time and feeling defensive when you're challenged is inevitable when you care so much about doing "right" by your kids.

Perhaps the message shouldn't be, "don't judge" but, instead, to forgive others when they do and be mindful when you find yourself doing it, as it may be a good opportunity to reflect on your own choices.  We should share information, but if we don't like information that's being shared, we can choose to disregard it and not take its circulation as a personal attack.  We can acknowledge that our strong opinions can coexist with those of others. We can stop working ourselves into a tizzy trying to justify our choices to perfect strangers (sometimes really to justify to ourselves that they are the right ones for our family).  A person who feels strongly against sleep training just won't ever see it the other way.  And that's ok.  There's probably something they do that you think is ridiculous.  That's ok too.  Judge away.  Let's all just stop taking it personally.  After all, in a few short years our kids will make us feel like we did everything wrong anyway :)